Elmira <I>Royster</I> Shelton

Elmira Royster Shelton

Original Name Sarah Elmira Royster
Birth
Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Death 11 Feb 1888 (aged 77–78)
Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Burial Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Memorial ID 33060996 · View Source
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Literary Folk Figure. The first and last romantic attachment of Edgar Allan Poe, she was the probable subject of several of his poems. Born Sarah Elmira Royster she was raised and in Richmond, Virginia, by a well off family and first met Poe in 1825; though only in their mid-teens the pair formed an attachment and were secretly engaged. Elmira's father, however, was quite opposed to the match as he had learned that Poe was to be disinherited by his wealthy stepfather John Allan. When Poe left Richmond to attend the University of Virginia Mr. Royster intercepted Poe's letters to Elmira and hers to him. Thinking that Poe had forgotten her Elmira, at age 17, married Alexander Shelton who was to become wealthy in the transportation business. Shelton died in 1844 leaving Elmira with a large inheritance but with stipulations that she would forfeit most of it if she remarried. By 1848 Poe's child-bride Virginia had also died and he called on Elmira while visiting Richmond. She attended some of his lectures and poetry performances and the two renewed their relationship despite the resistance of her children and despite the provisions of Mr. Shelton's will. A religious lady, Elmira would never have taken up with the great writer a second time had she not known that his reputation as a drinker was exaggerated, though it is equally certain that she had to have been unaware of his simultaneous romancing of Sarah Helen Whitman in Rhode Island. When Poe left Richmond on September 27, 1849, he was expecting to return soon for his marriage to Elmira but he was to die in Baltimore on October 7th. under circumstances that remain mysterious. Elmira never remarried and for many years denied that she was ever engaged to Poe though she was to admit everything to Poe's physician Dr. John Joseph Moran in June 1884. Historians sometimes question Dr. Moran's veracity, though the general consensus is that while he tended to magnify his own part in events he never actually lied. The truth, however, had long been generally known and she was commonly called "Poe's Leonore", sometimes even to her face, in Richmond for the rest of her life. Elmira's obituary in the Richmond "Whig" referred to her as "Poe's first and last love". Just which of the many ladies Poe knew over the years he addressed his poetry to is a matter of controversy among scholars but by general agreement several of the poems, including "Song", in the 1827 "Tamerlane and Other Poems", Poe's first published work, are about Elmira. Many authorities contend that she was the "lost Leonore" of Poe's 1845 magnum opus "The Raven" and the "Annabel Lee" of the 1849 posthumously published work of that name. Today Elmira's house on East Grace Street in Richmond is a National Historic Landmark.

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 19 Jan 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 33060996
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Elmira Royster Shelton (1810–11 Feb 1888), Find a Grave Memorial no. 33060996, citing Shockoe Hill Cemetery, Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .